St. Louis running back Markel Smith wears black and gold for his high school, St. John Vianney, and he plans to wear black and gold when he begins his college career next fall.
Smith, a 5-10, 210-pounder, tweeted Tuesday night that he committed to the University of Iowa. Smith, a three-star recruit according to Rivals, picked the Hawkeyes over Missouri, Illinois and Ole Miss.
Smith was a first-team All-Metro selection and the Metro Catholic Conference offensive player of the year as a junior after he rushed for an St. Louis area-high 2,520 yards, averaging of 8.8 yards per carry and 229 yards rushing per game. He scored 30 total touchdowns.
Going into this season, Smith had racked up 4,728 yards rushing and 55 touchdowns in his first three varsity seasons.
And Smith is having a pretty good season.
On Oct. 5, Smith broke the Missouri single-game rushing record when he ran for 541 yards and seven touchdowns on 42 carries. He broke the record of 533 set by CBC’s Rayon Simmons against Parkway South in 2007.
“It felt amazing,” Smith told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I have to tip my hat to my linemen, because without them none of it is possible. It feels amazing just to accomplish a goal like that, not saying that I was focused on that. I didn’t even know it until someone told me after. It felt great. It was amazing.”
At that point, Smith had an area-best 1,531 yards on 203 carries, an average of 7.5 yards per, and he led the area with 23 touchdowns. He’s averaged 255.2 yards rushing per game.
Why is a running back with such impressive credentials still out there?
On Smith, Rivals recruiting analyst Rod Cassidy wrote: “Maybe there’s a line of thinking out there that Smith relies on his size to squash high school defenders who can’t match his strength. Maybe some college coaches worry about his power-based game translating to the next level. Smith doesn’t have track-star speed, but he’s certainly fast enough. He can also be as elusive when he’s forced to be.”
Cassidy also wrote: “Smith is one of the most under-recruited players in America.”
At one point, Smith did commit to home-state Missouri, which happens to be ranked No. 9 this week. He decommitted in April. He told Rivals that he believed he committed too early and wanted to explore his options. The day Rivals talked to him, Smith happened to have four letters from Iowa in a stack of mail.
Smith visited Iowa, Missouri and Ole Miss in August.
An ESPN scouting report says, “This player has the size and playing strength to be a productive inside runner at the BCS level. Possesses strength in his lower body and it appears his upper frame is capable of supporting additional bulk over time.”
Smith is Iowa’s 16th commitment. The class will likely number in the low 20s.
Smith isn’t the only running back, but that might have already been worked out. Cincinnati St. Xavier running back C.J. Hilliard now looks to be more of a defensive back prospect. Hilliard wasn’t his team’s primary running back, rushing just 71 times for 263 yards this season.
POST SCRIPT: Smith talked to HawkeyeReport.com about his commitment. In that interview he said he still needs an ACT score to qualify. Other than that, he’s excited for the opportunity at Iowa. (FWIW, I think he’s a fit. Big, packs a punch, low center of gravity, hard for a tackler to break into.)
Q: Do you have to take the ACT again or are you all good to go academically?
SMITH: I just took the ACT, so I don’t know my score yet. If it’s not where I hope it is, I’ll have to take it again.
Q: What does it feel like for you tonight just getting that decision out there and everything?
SMITH: It feels good. It’s my final decision. I’m done. No more visits. I don’t have to worry about where I’m going anymore. I know where I’m going and it’s official. I can just focus on football now. It’s off my shoulders, so it’s a big relief. Iowa is a great school. The fans are tremendous and show outstanding support to the players, so I’m excited to go there.
Jay Scheel, QB 6-2, 170 Union High School (La Porte City) ****
Lucas LeGrand, OL, 6-5, 260 Dubuque Senior High School ***
Omar Truitt, CB, 5-11, 185, St. John’s College High School (Washington D.C.) ***
C.J. Hilliard, RB, 5-9, 192, St. Xavier High School (Cincinnati, Ohio) ***
Jyaz Jones, S, 6-0, 172, South Oak Cliff High School (Dallas, Texas) **
Jameer Outsey, OLB, 6-3, 220, Franklin High School (Somerset, N.J.) ***
Keegan Render, OL, 6-3, 310, Indianola High School ***
Matt Nelson, DE, 6-7, 249, Xavier High School (Cedar Rapids) ***
Mick Ellis, K, 5-9, 185, Lovejoy High School (Lucas, Texas) **
Terrance Harris, DE, 6-2, 240, Paramus Catholic High School (Paramus, N.J.) **
Ben Niemann, OLB, 6-3, 185, Sycamore (Ill.) High School **
Aaron Mends, LB, 6-1, 204, Winnetonka (Kansas City, Mo.) High School ***
Josh Jackson, CB, 6-1, 175, Dallas Lake ( Corinth, Texas) High School **
Marcel Joly, CB, 5-11, 180, Forestville (Md.) High School ***
Jalen Embry, CB, 5-11, 176, King (Detroit, Mich.) High School ***
Markel Smith, RB, 5-10, 210, St. John Vianney (St. Louis, Mo.) High School ***
* — Rivals.com star rating